How to get inducted into your donors' hall of fame

by Joanne Wallace

Earlier this year Frank Buckley, President and spokesman for the world's nastiest tasting cough syrup, was inducted into Canada's Marketing Hall of Legends. Why? Well, oddly enough, because he told his customers the truth.

Back in the early 1980s, Buckley's - a foul-tasting brew first concocted by Buckley's father back in 1919 - was bottoming out in the highly competitive cough syrup market. All the syrups were basically the same - they came in similar packages, they had the same ingredients, they made the same promise. They even tasted the same. Except for Buckley's. It tasted awful.

In stepped adman Peter Byrne, who pitched the risky idea of using the bad taste to sell the product. Buckley embraced it, even agreeing to appear in the ads himself. Thus was born the "Buckley's - It tastes awful and it works" campaign - and by 1992 Buckley's was the #1 selling cough syrup in Canada, and remains so to this day.

Classic ad for Buckley's cough syrup.

So what can fundraisers learn from this? One word: authenticity. Sure, the Buckley's campaign works because it's humorous and fun, but it also works because a real human being (the President of the company, no less) is cutting the crap and telling the truth.

Your donors and customers are living in a world of marketing spin and political nonsense. Their default position is to ignore whatever they can, and take everything else with an extremely large grain of salt.

But a real, honest human voice can still cut through this firewall. So when you're writing letters or proposals or grant applications or reports - write like one honest human being to another. Your donors will sit up and take notice; more importantly, they'll trust you to tell them the truth.





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